Tuesday, 31 July 2007

National Art Library

Today, we visited the National Art Library in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 1852, the South Kensington Museum, which later became the Victoria and Albert Museum, was created. The library is housed in part of the museum. This means that the library is taking up some valuable exhibit space, causing a love/hate relationship with the museum.

The centre room of the library is where the enquiry desk (reference desk), the counter where books are picked up, dropped off and readers are registered, computers with the library's catalog, and a ready reference collection are all located.

The marshalling area is where all of the requests come through and are organized. The staff have to use a findings list in order to find where the items are located. They look up the press mark on the book and check the findings list because most of the books are stored by size and not by subject. The pressmarks on the spines of new books relate to the size of the volumes. For instance, a 603 book is 20-30 cm in height. Once the request is filled, the books are put in a pidgeonhole which has numbers corresponding to the desk at which the reader is sitting. This saves cluttering up a reading desk if the reader does not look at the book quickly. Also, some readers request items which they might never pick up.

Over 8,000 periodical titles are housed in the periodicals stacks. Approximately, 2,500 of these, however, are actually getting current issues still published. The National Art Library differs from the British Library because they collect all sorts of periodicals, not just the British ones. This means that many different languages are located here. The periodicals are all rebound into hardbacks. One reason for this is to preserve the issues and collect them in one place. Another reason is because it would be harder for someone to slip an entire hardback book into their purse or bag. I was kind of amazed to learn that there is no sort of security system in place. None of the items are tagged. True, there is a record of who requested what item but that doesn't seem like it would deter many people.

Both of the women giving our tour stressed that the library was tight for space. This fact was obvious when we were in the stacks. I would hate to have to do any shifting in there. A problem with this lack of space is that the new books coming through cataloging are beginning to back-up. The shelving in the staff area was filled with books which have recently come in but can't go anywhere because there is no space for them. Luckily, readers can still request these books. I get the feeling that the situation is frustrating for everyone working there.

Next, my group was able to view some book art and other impressive books. Here are some of the class looking at the book art.

My favourite? Definitely Drawings in a Nutshell. They are little drawings of nuts in a little book which is in a nutshell. Love it.

But I liked the Empty Bookcases book, too.

And this travel journal/scrapbook/autograph book was amazing. The artist/creator/author was a wonderful artist.

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